8 Things You Should Never Hide From Your Landlord

By Paul Michael on 15 February 2018 0 comments

So, you're renting a place to live. And that means you have a landlord. Whoever is responsible for the house or apartment will be holding you to a set of standards. You'll have signed a contract. Whether you're renting the place alone, with friends, or even strangers, you better be upfront about the following, or you could find yourself out on the street.

1. Your pets

When you look for a new place to rent, you'll see that almost all of them have a pet policy. It will either be no pets allowed, pets OK with a deposit, or a stipulation on which kind of pets you can have (maybe dogs aren't allowed, but cats are).

If you have a pet and are planning to rent a place, you must disclose it to the landlord. It's tempting to think, "Whiskers is so old and small, no one will care," but that's not the point.

The policy is there for a reason. The landlord may not want the additional cleanup involved in getting a house or apartment ready for the next tenant. Some pets can cause damage far more expensive to repair than the security deposit will cover. Whatever the reason, they set the rules, and you must agree to abide by them.

If you are found with a pet, even if it's a pet you bought after you signed the lease, the landlord is well within his or her rights to ask you to get rid of it. They could also evict you for breaching the contract. It's not worth it. Find a place that's pet-friendly, or see if you can give your pet to a caring friend. (See also: 7 Smart Ways to Get Your Apartment Deposit Back)

2. Any new roommates

Many of us have shared a home or apartment with roommates so we can afford the rent. It happens a lot with college students, or when you're living in places like Manhattan or Beverly Hills. If three of you decide to rent a four-bedroom place, and all sign the contract, no problem. But if you decide to move another friend in after the fact, that's trouble.

Whether you're taking money from that person to help with the rent, or just letting them stay for free, you are breaking the rules of the lease. Think of it from the landlord's point of view. He or she vetted you, and anyone else who put their name on the contract. If you bring someone else in, they get by that process unchecked. They're an unknown, and landlords really don't like unknowns; especially if it's their own home they're renting out.

Not only that, but it's possible the apartment or home is only fit for habitation by a maximum number of individuals. Add more, and you could be putting people in harm's way. Whatever the case, you're once again risking the chance of being kicked out on the street.

3. DIY or home improvements you have made

It may be home sweet home, but it isn't yours. You're just "borrowing" it for a set amount of time. The house, and any contents that came with it in the lease, are not yours. Therefore, you don't have the right to start messing around with them.

You may think you're doing the landlord a favor; perhaps you want to rip out the carpet and install a wooden floor, or scrape off the older wallpaper and add something fresh and vibrant. Well, that may not be something the landlord wants.

Now, by all means, ask the landlord if you can do these improvements, and get it in writing if he or she agrees. Chances are, if you're planning to make upgrades that make the place more attractive, you'll get the go-ahead. But never assume, and never keep any work you've done a secret. On the day you move out, you could find your security deposit is not returned because you didn't leave the home in the same state you found it. (See also: 14 Simple Ways to Make an Apartment a Home)

4. Problems with utilities

Utilities may be included with the rent, or they may all be your responsibility, but either way, you should tell the landlord as soon as you notice any problems. Water leaks can start out as minor repairs, but left unchecked, they can lead to thousands of dollars in damages. They can also affect other tenants, and it will all be on the landlord's shoulders.

Electric problems are just as bad. If something is shorting out, it could lead to a fire, and that could be disastrous.

Even if it doesn't seem like anything — maybe just a slight drop in water pressure, a sketchy light switch, or an unexplained increase in the utility bill — talk to your landlord immediately. In this case, a stitch in time really does apply. Oh, and if the landlord has evidence that you concealed the problems, you could be liable for the full cost of the repairs.

5. Broken or malfunctioning appliances

Just like the utilities issue, broken appliances and other fixtures should also be reported to the landlord as soon as you notice them. Again, if the malfunction is caught early, it could mean a simple fix instead of a major repair — or worse, having to replace the entire unit.

Broken or malfunctioning appliances can also cause damage to the apartment. For example, a washing machine that's leaking water into the wooden floors can create issues that may not be caught until months later, and by then, it's a big problem. A stove that leaks gas is obviously a serious health hazard and should be turned off and reported. A furnace that is setting off your carbon monoxide alarm is incredibly dangerous, and makes the home uninhabitable.

If that does happen, call the landlord immediately and get out of the home. Or at the very least, open all the windows if you cannot leave, and stay close to the fresh air. The landlord will be responsible for getting the furnace fixed, or more likely, replaced.

6. You're running a home-based business

Most of the time, the landlord isn't really going to care if it's a small business that doesn't impact the regulations of the area. For example, if you're making extra money selling knitted goods on Etsy, tutoring students, or writing web code on a laptop in your bedroom, it's probably not going to be a big deal. However, other kinds of business can cause problems for the landlord.

If you decide to turn your apartment into a massage therapy facility, or start fixing cars in the attached garage, you could be violating zoning restrictions. And if it is noisy, smelly, and a nuisance to neighbors, you're just asking to be evicted. Check with the landlord before you sign the lease; there will usually be a section in there talking about home-based businesses.

7. You can't find your key

Hey, it happens. Maybe it fell off the key ring, or you misplaced it and have no idea where it is. Even if you have a spare, you need to tell the landlord as soon as you notice your key has gone missing.

Although it's unlikely that it will be used to gain access to the property, you cannot say for sure that it didn't end up in the wrong hands. For your own peace of mind, you should tell the landlord what has happened, as any kind of security risk poses a problem.

If the landlord decides that the locks need to be changed, you will almost certainly be responsible for the costs incurred. You may also have no choice about which firm replaces the locks. If you're handy you could offer to do it yourself and save some money, but it's doubtful you'll be allowed to do that.

8. You're subletting the property

It's very tempting to sublet your apartment or home if you know you're going to be gone for a significant amount of time. Some people also sublet when they know a big event is coming to town, and services like Airbnb make it very easy to do that and make a significant profit for a few days. All of this is a big no-no if you haven't checked with the landlord first.

Some states and municipalities have specific laws regarding subletting. Your lease may explicitly prevent you from subletting. Even if the landlord agrees, he or she may want to have a say in who you choose to sublet the property to, and may insist on a background check that you must pay for.

And remember, if you do sublet and the subtenant doesn't pay you, it's your responsibility to pay the rent. So choose carefully, or you could end up in a world of financial pain. (See also: The Easy Way to Sublet Your Apartment)

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